It was only a five-second lapse in concentration but it was enough to ruin 48 years of hard work. For in the five seconds between opening the curtains and realising the problem, Joan Bonsall, 72, it was too late: a busload of people had seen her walking about inside her living room with the lights on.
‘I don't know what made me forget,’ sobbed Bonsall. ‘Maybe it was because I’m that worried about our Martin’s Shania I didn't sleep a wink the night before. Her’s been a-courting this young man she met at university - her's got a degree in Psychology you know - but neither of them's got a job yet. What will people think?’
Ever since acquiring her three-bed ex-council house in Halesowen in 1964, Bonsall had kept a strict routine with regards to the living room. She replaced the entire suite of sofas twice a year and rearranged the room every morning in the dark, opening the curtains and ducking quickly behind the door as she left. None of her five children has ever set foot in it, she is proud to say.
To compound Bonsall’s misery, the bus in question was the 82 from Dudley that passes the house at 7.35 every morning. This meant that among the passengers currently gloating over their three-second glimpse of excruciating blunder were Susan from the greengrocer's shop, the man from the garage whose son’s a bit strange and the woman from Kingswinford whose sister run off with Bonsall's cousin's former best man.
Not all of her family are sympathetic to Bonsall’s plight, however. Daughter Jane, 36, said: ‘She thought the embarrassment would kill her in 1968, when my dad got a ticket to see West Brom in the FA Cup Final and moaned to his friends at work after she made him leave it in the attic for best It didn't, though.'
Bonsall's husband, Albert, died of a stress-related illness in 1987, while her first two sons, James and Michael, who would now be 42 and 40, have not been seen since shinning down a drainpipe to go to a Youth Club disco in 1990. Youngest son Martin, meanwhile, refused to comment on allegations that Shania was conceived on the living room floor.